Waiting for a unicorn can leave you by the side of the road
It’s not uncommon for job seekers and salespeople to be waiting for the “perfect” opportunity before they take any action. The problem with waiting for “perfect” is that it may never come. In the meantime, opportunities that might not be as big or “perfect” but in their own right could lead to something pretty darn close are often passed by. Imagine the surfer who sits on their board all day long and never rides a wave. They might be on the lookout for the “perfect” wave, but if they haven’t practiced with some not-so-great waves in advance, they probably risk wiping out the minute a great wave turns up. Or they may be fixed on an image of what the perfect wave should look like and not realize it was coming until it had already passed. I’m not a surfer, and you may not be either, but I think you can imagine my point.
I’ve overheard conversations about work scenarios that quite clearly (to me) were rife with opportunity. For instance, in one case, someone was describing a technology migration in their department that wasn’t going well and didn’t seem to have a solution. The listener was also a technology professional with deep experience in system migrations but was not currently working. At the end of the description of the problem, the listener didn’t ask pertinent questions, such as, “what have you tried?” or “how do you expect to solve that?” Instead, they wrapped the conversation with “if you hear of any job openings, please let me know.”
sometimes people/companies can be faced with a problem they haven’t yet started to solve
If you are thinking “what’s wrong with that?” then I’ll spell it out for you. Very simply, sometimes people/companies can be faced with a problem they haven’t yet started to solve. Everyone might be talking about it, but it may take a while for everyone to agree on exactly what the problem is or what they want to do about it. You may have heard people complain about your office’s coffee service. It may have been going on for months, but no one has considered taking action. A savvy salesperson would hear that clue and ask questions to determine if their company offered the right products/equipment/service plan to solve the problems that were described. At that point, rather than say “let me know if your company decides to look at a new service,” they might say “I’ve heard of that happening. Our company provides x, y, z and we could help with that. Who can you introduce me to who would be in a position to discuss a potential solution to the problems you’ve described?”
So, when someone is describing a problem that you can help fix, it’s a fabulous opportunity to help lead them to a solution. The process for getting to the point where an agreement is made about how the service can be provided and what it may cost may take a while, but being part of that process keeps you in the loop. Taking action early when you hear the first clues can help secure your role in the solution. Waiting until someone decides a position must be created, funded, approved and posted to speak up can leave you as only one of hundreds who apply and are considered many months later.
Another misconception is that you have to wait until a position is posted and then your only contact can be a recruiter or HR. Typically, they will not know nearly as much about a role as someone already working in the department who may have told you something was in the works. If you can get more information from your contact in the early stages of a solution/position development process and an introduction to the decision maker, imagine how much further ahead of the game you will be than if you wait until the position is posted or the request for a proposal hits the streets. That doesn’t mean you can circumvent companies’ hiring or purchasing processes when they are established. Showing interest early can simply help you learn and leverage the inside scoop to ensure you are strongly considered and that you are able to respond to their processes in the most favorable way.
When you hear about opportunities that are undefined or sound like they are less than you want, it’s only a sign that more information is needed. If you assume there will be a better opportunity later or that the grass is greener elsewhere, make sure to test your assumptions. Waiting for the unicorn when a horse and saddle are right in front of you may leave you standing on the side of the road much longer than your bank account is able to bear.